New Evidence on Gay and Lesbian Household Incomes


  • Christopher Carpenter

    1. Carpenter: Research Fellow, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Health Management and Policy, 109 Observatory, SPH-II M2102, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029. Phone 1-734-936-5347, Fax 1-734-936-9813, E-mail
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      This is a revision of a paper presented at the 76th annual conference of the Western Economic Association International, San Francisco, 2001. The author thanks Bob Anderson, Alan Auerbach, John Bluedorn, David Card, Sharmila Choudhury, David Levine, Marco Manacorda, and Marty Olney for comments. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at UC Berkeley, the 2001 Southern Economic Association, and the 2001 IGLSS Census Conference. Financial support from a Lloyd Ulman Dissertation Grant and a Health Care Financing Administration Dissertation Fellowship is gratefully acknowledged. Results do not imply endorsement from either funding agency.


Using independent data from the Centers for Disease Control, the author tests a key assumption of previous research on gay and lesbian incomes: that same-sex unmarried partner households are, indeed, gay or lesbian. The author shows that this independent data suffers from less severe underreporting of same-sex unmarried partner households than the 1990 Decennial Census. Furthermore, individual level information on sexual behavior and family planning is used to show that these households exhibit sexual behavior that is systematically different from married and different-sex couples and that is consistent with a large body of public health and HIV literature on gay men and lesbians. Finally, the author replicates, confirms, and extends previously published Census-based results on the household income penalty faced by gay male couples, showing that these results are not an artifact of deficient data. He finds similar results for lesbian couples. (JEL J1, J3)